After being benched for the final 20 minutes in Dallas’ 99-92 win over Toronto on Tuesday, Rajon Rondo was suspended for a road game against Atlanta on Wednesday. The Mavericks lost, 104-87.
All of the commotion started, of course, when Mavs coach Rick Carlisle shouted a play call to Rondo during the third quarter against Toronto. Unless Rondo didn’t hear Carlisle, he blatantly ignored him. Carlisle then ran onto the court, called timeout and got in a shouting match with Rondo on the sideline.
Thus, Rondo, who was acquired in a trade Dec. 18, has been in Dallas for just over two months and is already having problems with the head coach.
This incident had to look quite familiar for the folks back in Boston.
“Well, it looked familiar going back not to the Brad Stevens days but more to the Doc Rivers days,” Celtics play-by-play radio voice Sean Grande said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “They would clash. It was a difficult and complex relationship that Doc Rivers had with Rondo. Rondo is a very competitive, fiery person. He’s very headstrong. One of the things that makes him great and allows him to perform on the big stage – which he really hans’t gotten a chance to do yet for Dallas. We’re not yet in the playoffs. Everybody needs to remember that. (But) one of the things that makes him great, that fuels him, is the fact that he is so stubborn and so determined, and that can make him difficult to coach. He’s not a malleable kind of guy. It isn’t shocking.”
It also doesn’t help that people have been able to question Rondo’s true value to a team in recent years. His skills? No. But his value? A little bit.
“For the last three years, the Celtics’ have (had a) better (record) when he was not playing than when he has,” Grande said. “And (the Mavericks’) record isn’t as good since he joined them. The pressure starts to build a little bit. For everything he does well – and he does some spectacular things and will undoubtedly in the payoffs – it’s tough getting four guys to fit around him sometimes.”
The Mavs (39-21) were 19-8 (.704) before trading for Rondo but are 20-13 (.606) ever since.
To be fair, Carlisle deserves some blame for this incident as well. Running onto the court? Exasperatingly calling timeout? Lashing out at Rondo publicly? Bullying the media during the press conference?
It wasn’t actually “Coaching 101” on how to handle and diffuse a situation.
“First of all, I’m a Carlisle fan. I have been for a long time,” Grande said. “But I don’t think he covered himself in glory in this whole thing, either. The press conference – Rick Carlisle is a little bit of a bully sometimes. You saw (Tuesday) night when he got pressed. (He said), ‘How many times do you want me to answer the question?’ They said, ‘Once. You haven’t answered it yet.’ He wasn’t accustomed to people sort of fighting back. And then he said in that news conference that Rajon Rondo is my starting point guard, and then a day later he suspended him. So we obviously don’t know how much went on behind the scenes.
“I think that to have a relationship with Rondo means a lot of give and take,” Grande continued. “You have to take the great things that Rondo does with some of the difficulties that come with (him). There’s a reason Rondo was the 21st pick in the draft (even) with all of his extraordinary abilities and talent – and that’s because he’s generally had a reputation of being difficult. He’s a complicated person on a variety of levels. This may be new in Dallas, but it wasn’t new in Boston. He had issues with teammates, he had issues with coaches – but not all the time. It comes and it goes.”